TRAVIS C. VALENTINE MEMORIAL

ANEURYSM RESEARCH FUND

Above: Travis Valentine, cum laude BA Government and
International Politics ’05

Fund progress as of October 15

$25,040
2019 goal of $35,000

Thank you to all of our 2018 donors for a successful year for the Travis Fund, which raised a total of $46,195.15!”

Overview

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    The Travis C. Valentine Memorial Aneurysm Research Fund (the Travis Fund) was established in late 2017 to solicit contributions which will support previously unfunded and potentially ground-breaking research projects by George Mason University’s College of Science related to studying brain aneurysms generally, to developing predictive modeling of aneurysm ruptures, and to pursuing a good understanding of aneurysm evolution.

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    Travis joined the Mason community as a member of the fall 2001 Freshman Class. He graduated cum laude in May 2005 with a BA in government and international politics. During his undergraduate years, Travis was one of the founders of Alpha Omega Delta of Chi Psi Fraternity at Mason. He was subsequently recognized as the most outstanding graduating Chi Psi senior in the nation.

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    Travis died as the result of a ruptured brain aneurysm on February 14, 2017 at his residence in Washington, DC. A self-taught software engineer, he had made a very successful start on an outstanding career when his life ended all too soon.

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    The Travis Fund was created by a Chi Psi Brother’s contribution and bequest commitment. This web page now enables friends, family members and other Chi Psis to provide additional support by making contributions and by providing bequest commitments.

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    During its early years, Travis Fund monies will be expended annually to undertake the critical first steps on research projects. The longer-term intention is to develop an endowment base which will both (i) generate annual income to support ongoing research projects and (ii) significantly enhance the appeal of proposals to major research foundations for their support of the Fund.

Brain Aneurysms

In layman’s terms, an aneurysm is an area of an artery where its wall weakens—or perhaps has been weak since a person’s birth. This condition allows the artery to balloon out and, for this reason, become susceptible to rupturing at that weak point when enough pressure is applied to it.

Brain or “cerebral” aneurysms are among the primary types in the body. It is estimated that approximately one in 50 people in the United States have an unruptured brain aneurysm. It is also estimated that there is a brain aneurysm rupturing every 18 minutes in the United States. About 40% of such cases are fatal. About two-thirds of the remaining non-fatal 60% of ruptures result in some permanent neurological deficit. Approximately four out of seven people who recover from a ruptured brain aneurysm will have lasting disabilities—physical or mental or perhaps both.

Research regarding aneurysms—and particularly regarding the highly debilitating and fatal ruptures of brain aneurysms—has been a chronically underfunded priority for many years. So, Chi Psis were glad to learn of the work done to date by Professor Juan R. Cebral, PhD, in the Bioengineering and Mechanical Engineering Departments of Mason’s Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study. Having the opportunity to support work in an area which needs substantive and creative research and also to support Mason faculty members who are already engaged in such work quickly emerged as a natural fit with the desire by family members and fellow Chi Psis to create a meaningful memorial to Travis’ life.

More importantly, the additional work which Dr. Cebral wants to undertake as funding becomes available meshed quickly with the desire of Chi Psi alumni and of Travis’ family and friends generally. As he said in the fall of 2017:

Our research focuses on the use of patient-specific computational models of cerebral aneurysms, constructed from 3D medical images, to gain knowledge about the conditions that predispose aneurysms for rupture and understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the degradation and weakening of the wall that ultimately results in aneurysm rupture.

In response to questions regarding research he would like to undertake and whether a current-expenditure fund would be useful even if a long-term endowment takes many years to develop, his response was strongly affirmative.

Potential contributions will be used to advance two research ventures that are currently unfunded and have a large potential impact both in aneurysm research as well as the clinical practice:

Predictive modeling of aneurysm rupture

PURPOSE:

To identify hemodynamic and geometric conditions that predispose aneurysms for rupture, and incorporate them into statistical predictive models of aneurysm

IMPACT:

Improve patient assessment by identifying patients that need immediate treatment while minimizing unnecessary interventions (and associated complications) for patients with low risk aneurysms.

APPROACH:

We will build predictive statistical models of aneurysm rupture using aneurysm location, hemodynamic and geometric characteristics in addition to demographic and patient characteristics. For this purpose, we will use a database of over 2,000 patient-specific aneurysm models developed at GMU with 3D image data from different hospitals / populations, including Inova Fairfax Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, and Mt. Sinai Medical Center. We will perform cross validations of the models and assessments of their predictive value.

Understanding aneurysm evolution

PURPOSE:

To understand how the hemodynamic environment within the aneurysm changes as the aneurysm develops and grows, and how these changes differ between aneurysms that rupture and those that remain stable.

IMPACT:

Better understand the characteristics that distinguish stable aneurysms from unstable aneurysms that evolve towards rupture. This will impact the clinical practice by better understanding the characteristics of unruptured aneurysms that could be conservatively observed (stable) and those that require immediate treatment (unstable).

APPROACH:

We will build computational models of aneurysm evolution (including both ruptured and unruptured aneurysms from our database) and study the changes in the hemodynamic environment at different stages of the evolution. Note that aneurysm evolution is extremely difficult to observe because of the small number of aneurysms considered safe for observation without treatment, also because of the long time required to observe the aneurysm progressing, and because if an aneurysm that is being followed is observed to change (e.g. grow) it is treated immediately. Thus, we propose to build synthetic aneurysm evolution sequences and observe the changes in the aneurysm flow conditions as it progresses towards rupture or stability.

BUDGET:

The funds will be primarily used to push forward impactful research studies that are currently unfunded, with the expectation that they will not only have an immediate impact, but also generate preliminary data for future grants.

Specifically, the funds will be used to: a) support faculty efforts to devote time to these research project, b) support travel and collaboration with multiple centers and clinics to conduct joint research, as well as conference publication opportunities to disseminate results and promote the use of the new discoveries and knowledge in the clinic, and c) cover journal paper publication expenses.

More About Travis

Travis was born on March 16, 1983, in York, PA. He grew up there and graduated from high school in 2001. An avid soccer player, Travis was an active, engaging and caring youngster, adolescent, college student, and young professional. His interest in helping other people was a deeply-held commitment as was noted universally by family, friends, professional colleagues, and Chi Psi Brothers who spoke at his Memorial Service on March 12, 2017.

Travis’ personal commitment is now widely remembered by the Benjamin Franklin quotation – “What good shall I do this day?” – which was on a plaque that stood on a table in his apartment. This quotation was from Franklin’s precept of Order which was a schedule by which Franklin allocated time for his activities “for the twenty-four hours of a natural day.” The first item Franklin listed for each morning was to ask himself this question. This Franklin precept expresses beautifully the way in which Travis lived his all-too-short life among us.

Travis’ fellow founders of Chi Psi on the Mason campus held him in high regard. They described him as “the glue which held us together” and as “devoid of ego yet amazing at so many things” and as having “courtesies and kindnesses . . . only exceeded by my admiration for all that he was able to accomplish.” After he graduated in 2005, Travis was the first Mason alumnus to be elected to the local Chi Psi alumni corporation’s board of directors and then as the first Mason alumnus to serve as that corporation’s Treasurer.

Travis’ affection for his alma mater continued after his graduation. He served on the Annual Giving Committee (no longer in operation) in 2010 to support the Mason Foundation’s work where he was described as “very enthusiastic about his experience at Mason and had many great ideas and suggestions for things we could be doing going forward.”

How To Support The Travis Fund

The Travis Fund was formally created by the George Mason University Foundation in late December
2017. With the initial contribution and bequest designation coming forward in February 2018, the Fund
is now “open for support” and ready to begin providing current-year funding for brain
aneurysm research.

Current Contributions

As noted above, the contributions in the initial years will be expended to support the research work in the ways noted above by Dr. Cebral. With that in mind, we set a a goal of 35,000 for 2019 with the desire to enable him and his colleagues to make a good start and thereby also attract attention and support from other institutions which will see that the commitment is real and that the research work is serious.

The undergraduate Chi Psis at Mason devoted their fall 2017 Philanthropy Week to raising funds to support brain aneurysm research, and they were able to contribute $2,000 to a separate research foundation last year. With the Travis Fund now established and open, their future efforts can proudly promote the effort to continue supporting research with the added benefits of noting to the entire Mason community that the work will be done by Mason faculty and dedicated to the memory of a Mason alumnus, which should result in setting a much higher goal and engaging in much more enthusiastic efforts to achieve it.

Now, we invite you to join us in supporting this important initiative with a contribution by making an online gift. If you prefer to write a check, please make it payable to George Mason University Foundation, Inc. with the memo “Travis Valentine Memorial Fund” and mail it to 4400 University Drive, MS 1A3, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Contributors will be kept up to date on the use of funds and hopefully on good results which begin to flow from the research over time.

Bequests

Our overall intention is to support the initial years’ research with current/annual fund contributions (including the work of the Chi Psi undergrads) while developing deferred giving/bequests which will, over time, build up a sufficient endowment to enable returns on the corpus to add to annual contributions as well as to further demonstrate to large research funds and institutions that this effort is serious and sustainable, thereby enhancing the force with which proposals to such entities for support can be made.

As of February 15, we have been informed of one bequest which has been formalized. While recognizing that bequests are always subject to revisions because donors’ circumstances can change, this initial bequest is expected to create $200,000 of endowment corpus.

If you are willing to support the Travis Fund in this way, please contact Evan Del Duke for more information. This needs to take place after you have formalized your estate plan with the necessary documents so that your executor/trustee has been appropriately directed to take the action which you intend.

For more information on this fund or ways to support it, contact Evan Del Duke,
Associate Director of Development for the College of Science (and a Chi Psi),
at edelduke@gmu.edu or 703-993-6066.